Senate opens probe on Malampaya project fundsBy Maila Ager
MANILA, Philippines – Exactly two years after Palawan broadcaster and environment activist Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega was murdered on Jan. 24, 2011, the Senate opened its investigation into the alleged irregularities in the use of Malampaya gas project funds, which has been linked to Ortega’s death.
The investigation by the committee on accountability of public officers and investigations or Senate blue ribbon committee was prompted by a letter from concerned citizens last Oct. 23, 2012, asking the committee to investigate the alleged massive irregularities in projects funded by the Malampaya project near Palawan.
“Allegations of corruption are widespread, continuing, and serious. In fact, some believe that Doc Gerry Ortega, a broadcaster, was murdered for talking about the ills of Malampaya-funded projects in Palawan. He was shot to death on January 24, 2011,” Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the committee, said in his opening statement on Thursday.
“Today, we observe the second anniversary of the slain broadcaster’s death,” he said.
He noted that until now, there has been no answer as to how the funds from the project were spent.
“Malaki ang kita sa Malampaya project. Sa batas, dapat sana naghahatian ang National Government at ang Palawan sa kita nito: 60% para sa National Government, 40% para sa Palawan,” Guingona said.
“Unfortunately, Palawan’s claim to its 40% share was disputed and a case was filed in court,” he said.
While the case was pending, Guingoa said an interim agreement was signed on Feb. 9, 2005 and later an Executive Order 683 was signed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which gave way to a temporary solution of sharing of incomes.
Under the Interim agreement and Executive Order, the sharing scheme was 50 percent for the National Government and 50 percent for Palawan.
Citing a report of the Commission on Audit, Guingona said the Palawan share went to the following:
1. P966,000,000 for the provincial government of Palawan
2. P 816,000,000 for the first congressional district of the province
3. 270,000,000 for Puerto Princesa
4. P 520,000,000 for the second district of Palawan.
“Were these funds used for the benefit of the people? Maayos na ba ang lahat ng mga daan sa Palawan dahil sa mga proyekto na ito? Nakatulong ba ito sa buhay ng mga taga-Palawan,” asked the senator.
“We are here today to uncover the truth behind this issue, to find out if irregularities have indeed been committed, to list down the names of those responsible, and to ensure that they are made liable for acts or omissions that violate the law,” Guingona added.